Mailbag: Rock
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Mailbag: Rock, Paper, Scissors

March 29, 2017

You’ve entered a Rock, Paper, Scissors competition, but there’s a catch. You won’t be personally playing. Instead, you’ll have to peg a Nebraska player to represent you in the competition. Who do you select? It’s a question that requires some strategic thinking (and a possible intimidation factor) so we did our best to make our picks.

Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.

Q: If you had to pick any Nebraska player to represent you in Rock, Paper, Scissors – who would you choose? Why? – M.S., Lincoln, Neb.

JJ: Jordan Ober and I have no idea why. Maybe because he’s good at the guitar?

ES: Caleb Lightbourn. I’m not sure how this relates, but he can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than 60 seconds so I think that would transfer in some way. Maybe because both require some strategy and patience? Whatever it is, I’m taking Lightbourn and I’m going to win.

Also, I asked Jacob and he said he would take Mick Stoltenberg because of the “intimidation factor.”

Q: What players have emerged as leaders this spring? – B.M.

ES: This reminds me of our question in the State of Husker Nation poll asking you who you think is the “face” of the team this year. It’s really not an easy question to answer, especially with so much change in 2017. With that said, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Mick Stoltenberg, Stanley Morgan and Jerald Foster. Nick Gates has also been very vocal alongside Foster on the offensive line, so he could easily be on the list too. I think the leaders will continue to emerge over the summer and fall camp, so it’ll be interesting to watch.

Speaking of which, I purposely left a quarterback off the list for now. I’ll leave that until a starter truly starts to emerge.

Q: Between football, baseball, and men’s basketball, who wins a B1G title first? – C.D., Lincoln, Neb.

BV: We asked a very similar poll question on recently and respondents picked baseball. Who am I to disagree with the people? Baseball is also my choice.

JP: I’ll take baseball as well. Men’s basketball is still too far away, and while football seems to be closer it still has some pretty huge hurdles to jump. Baseball seems to be the one sport where Nebraska should be able to compete on a level playing field with pretty much every other team in the conference.

Q: Will the Husker men’s basketball team finally make a push next year into the top half or even third next year? – P.Z., Omaha, Neb.

JP: I wouldn’t hold my breath. Nebraska isn’t going to have a single player that has proven he can be a consistent No. 1 option. Could I see a scenario where most of the guys from the sophomore and freshman classes make a leap forward and the newcomers mesh well with the returning guys, resulting in a top-half finish? Sure. But that’s probably the best possible scenario. There are many others where Nebraska makes only minor improvements or none at all.

Q: Michigan, Utah, Florida, etc. and now South Carolina have had success in football and men’s basketball. How soon until we have our loads of fun? – M.S.

ES: This sort of reminds me of last Saturday’s Hail Varsity Radio show. Mark and TJ talked about having “Badger Envy.” That’s another team that has really found success in both football and basketball, which Husker fans are really envious of. As for when that will happen for Nebraska? Give me the 2017 season for both and I’ll get back to you.

Q: Is Marcus Newby your early pick for breakout player of the year on defense? – B.C., Overland Park, Kans.

JJ: I’ll go with Chris Weber. Weber has proven that he is a really good run and chase linebacker in the past (the Illinois and Wisconsin games from 2015 are good examples). Now he is in a 3-4 scheme that is designed to free him up from blockers and utilize his strengths. My backup pick would be Antonio Reed, he’s a physical specimen and eventually if he can put it all together he’ll be special at strong safety.

JP: I think Carlos Davis is going to be a monster this year. We only saw it in spurts last year with him playing mostly as a reserve. Now, that defensive end spot is all his and he’ll play as many snaps as he can handle.

Q: Do you think the coaching staff is pushing Lamar Jackson into a role though he may not be mentally ready? – B.C., Overland Park, Kans.

JJ: Not really. He played consistent snaps on special teams and saw plenty of snaps on defense last year. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he showed flashes of what he could be. Now this spring the coaches are pushing him to see if he can make the jump from 10-15 snaps a game to 40+ snaps a game.

BV: Nebraska has enough options in the secondary that I think if Jackson wasn’t ready for more the staff wouldn’t put him out there. The stakes in this season are too high for that.

JP: This staff also hasn’t shown a desire to play guys who haven’t figured it out mentally. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mikale Wilbon certainly has had more than enough physical talent to get more snaps than he has the last two years.

Q: Who was your favorite we-back? Derek Brown or Calvin Jones? – H., David City, Neb.

BV: Tough call, but I’ll go with Calvin. I shook hands with him once and it felt like shaking hands with a cinder block. Can’t imagine what it must have been like to try and tackle him.

Q: Does Husker women’s basketball win more or fewer games next season than last season? – H., David City, Neb.

JP: I have a hard time seeing how that team manages to win more games than it did this year. Nebraska just lost its best player (who they couldn’t win with anyway) and I don’t see anyone coming in that could hope to approach Jess Shepard’s production. Amy Williams has a significant rebuild on her hands.

Q: What are the chances we have a 1,000-yard running back and a quarterback that throws for 3,000 with 65 percent completions? – C., Lincoln, Neb.

JJ: The quarterback scenario is 70 percent. The running back scenario is 20 percent.

BV: By my quick count — don’t quote me, I might have missed a few — 23 teams did this last season, including three from the Big Ten: Indiana, Northwestern and Penn State. Interestingly enough, three Oklahoma schools — OU, Oklahoma State and Tulsa — did it and the Sooners and Golden Hurricane each had two 1,000-yard rushers and a 3,000-yard passers. (Oklahoma: The Cradle of Offense.) I was a bit surprised that so many teams managed it a year ago, but maybe I shouldn’t have been given the era. Anyway, I don’t think Nebraska gets there. Passing is probably more likely than rushing, but doing both would be a significant step forward from last year’s offense. Too big of a step to count on in my opinion.

Q: What spots do we need to hit when we visit for the Spring Game? – Z.S.

ES: If this is your first time in town, you have to hit the Haymarket. You can tailgate and hang in The Railyard, grab some food and meet some other folks in town to enjoy some spring football. If you’re looking for something the night before the game, I’d recommend grabbing dinner at Misty’s and then meandering around O Street. If nothing else, just hang around campus. There’s no place like Nebraska on game day and that includes the spring game day.

Q: With the notable lack of starting experience at wide receiver, who provides meaningful wide receiver depth? Non-starter please. – J.S., Phoenix, Ariz.

JJ: I think Keyan Williams will surprise some people this year. He’s a fundamentally sound receiver that can work well in the short to intermediate area.

BV: I think Jake has the right answer. Williams wasn’t much on my radar coming into the spring but he definitely is now.

JP: If we want to get technical, Williams is probably in line to be the first string slot receiver, disqualifying him from this discussion. Stanley Morgan, De’Mornay Pierson-El and Bryan Reimers are the three guys at the head of the pack right now, and I’d say Williams is next in that line. If we’re looking for sleepers who will provide depth, I think the answer will come from the freshman class. Tyjon Lindsey is probably the easy pick there. J.D. Spielman is working in the slot behind Williams and both Jaevon McQuitty and Keyshawn Johnson Jr. have not been able to take advantage of spring ball, at least from a physical standpoint, thus far because of health concerns. If you’re looking for the next walk on to crack the rotation, I think the answer is Conor Young.

Q: Which Husker football player would win Dancing with the Stars? – A.

ES: This is a great question. One thing I’ve noticed on Dancing with the Stars is that the athletes (whether they’ve had dance experience or not) typically to do really well. I imagine it’s because they’re used to the training needed to prepare, as well as the knowledge of how to move their bodies. I felt this way watching Simone Biles, Rashad Jennings and Nancy Kerrigan on Monday night.

As for the Huskers, I feel like the person that would win would need to be very confident and have a good sense of humor. For that reason, I’d say Stanley Morgan would have a strong shot at winning. Keyshawn Johnson Jr. would also be willing to put himself out there, I’d imagine. Last but not least, I’d give Zack Darlington a shot. After his videos last year getting manicures and goofing around, I think he’d be comfortable owning the dance floor.

Q: Are you going to watch WrestleMania on Sunday? – A.B., Lincoln, Neb.

JJ: Absolutely. Wrestling is awesome, and WWE usually brings their A-game when it comes to Wrestlemania. Not loving how they’re using A.J. Styles but I’ll still tune in.

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